Æthelwold, Ealdorman of East Anglia

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Æthelwold, Ealdorman of East Anglia

Birthdate: (22)
Death: circa 962 (18-26)
Place of Burial: Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, England
Immediate Family:

Son of Æthelstan Half-King, Ealdorman of East Anglia and Ælfwynn
Husband of Ælfthryth
Brother of Ælfwald; Æthelwig, Ealdorman; Æthelsige and Æthelwine, Ealdorman of East Anglia

Occupation: Comte, d'East-Anglie
Managed by: Michael Arne Anderson
Last Updated:

About Æthelwold, Ealdorman of East Anglia

Æthelwald (died 962) was ealdorman of East Anglia. He is mentioned in Byrhtferth's life of Oswald of Worcester along with other members of his family.

He was probably the oldest son of Æthelstan Half-King and succeeded to some of his father's offices in 956 when Æthelstan became a monk at Glastonbury Abbey. He was a benefactor of Ramsey Abbey and a supporter of the Benedictine reform movement which began in the reign of King Edgar.

He was the first husband of Ælfthryth who married King Edgar after Æthelwald's death. William of Malmesbury's Gesta regum anglorum has a late account of Æthelwald's marriage and death. According to William, the beauty of Ordgar's daughter Ælfthryth was reported to King Edgar. Edgar, looking for a Queen, sent Æthelwald to see Ælfthryth, ordering him "to offer her marriage [to Edgar] if her beauty were really equal to report." When she turned out to be just as beautiful as was said, Æthelwald married her himself and reported back to Edgar that she was quite unsuitable. Edgar was eventually told of this deception, and decided to repay Æthelwald's betrayal in like manner. He said that he would visit the poor woman, which alarmed Æthelwald. He asked Ælfthryth to make herself as unattractive as possible for the king's visit, but she did the opposite. Edgar, quite besotted with her, killed Æthelwald during a hunt.

Æthelwald was seemingly dead by 962 as he ceases to witness charters at that time. He was buried at Ramsey Abbey. His younger brother Æthelwine succeeded to his offices.



Æthelwold was one of [Six] brothers, parents not known.

The Vita Oswaldi names Æthelstan, apparently the same person as the "Half-king Æthelstan", as father of Æthelwine, Ælfwald, Æthelwald and Æthelwig, who appear to be four of the brothers as shown below[45]. This is repeated in the Genealogia Comitis Ailwini, presumably based on the same source[46]. It is not corroborated in other sources.

1. ÆTHELWOLD (-before 964, bur Ramsey, Huntingdonshire).

Florence of Worcester names him and his three brothers[47]. The Vita Oswaldi names Æthelstan as father of Æthelwald[48]. Ealdorman of the East Angles 956. "Æthelwold dux" subscribed charters of Kings Edmund, Eadwig, and Edgar dated between 940 and 961[49]. In a charter of King Æthelred II, "Æthelwold" is recorded as the previous holder of land at Wylye, Wiltshire which the king then granted to Ælfgar, minister[50], although it is not certain that this is the same person.

Simeon of Durham records the marriage of King Eadgar and "the daughter of Ordgar duke of Devonshire after the death of her husband Elfwold…duke of the East Angles" in 964[51]. The Genealogia Comitis Ailwini records the death in 971 of “Ethelwoldus comes, frater Ailwini” and his burial at Ramsey[52], although this date is inconsistent with his widow´s remarriage as shown below.

[m firstly ---. There is no proof that Æthelwold had an earlier marriage. However, Ælfthryth must have considerably younger than her husband, who was already active in the administration of the country in 940, the earliest date when his name appears in subscription lists of charters, which makes an earlier marriage probable.]

m [secondly] as her first husband, ÆLFTHRYTH, daughter of Ealdorman ORDGAR of Devon (Lydford Castle, Devon ([945]-Wherwell Abbey, Hampshire [999/1002], bur Wherwell Abbey).

The Vita Oswaldi names Æthelwald as husband of Ælfthryth[53]. She married secondly ([965]) as his second wife, "the Peaceable" Edgar King of England. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle records the marriage in 965 of King Edgar and Ælfthryth, stating that she was the daughter of ealdorman Ordgar[54].

Simeon of Durham records the marriage of King Eadgar and "the daughter of Ordgar duke of Devonshire after the death of her husband Elfwold…duke of the East Angles" in 964[55]. Roger of Hoveden names her, her father and her first husband, when recording her second marriage[56]. Geoffrey Gaimar records a lengthy account of King Edgar having sent "Edelwoth" to woo "Estrueth la fille Orgar" on his behalf, and Æthelwold having married her without the king´s knowledge[57]. King Edgar granted land in Buckinghamshire to "Ælfgifu que mihi afinitate mundialis cruoris coniuncta" in 966[58]. "Ælfthryth regina" subscribed charters of King Edgar dated between 964 and 974[59].

William of Malmesbury recounts that King Edgar killed Ælfthryth's first husband to enable him to marry her[60]. She was crowned queen with her husband in 973, which was the first instance of the coronation of a queen in England. It was alleged that she was involved in the plot to kill her stepson so her own son could succeed as King[61]. "Ælfthryth regina" subscribed charters of King Æthelred II between 979 and 983[62], and "Ælfthryth regis mater" between 981 and 999[63]. She became a nun at Wherwell Abbey, Hampshire in [985]. Her son King Æthelred II granted privileges to Wherwell Abbey in 1002 for the benefit of her soul[64].

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Æthelwold, Ealdorman of East Anglia's Timeline

Age 22
Age 22
Ramsey, Cambridgeshire, England